August Cellars Wind Turbine Installation: Wind Powering America Lessons Learned
Jan. 30, 2012
In January 2011, developers installed a 50-kilowatt Entegrity wind turbine on the grounds of August Cellars, an Oregon winery. The 50-kilowatt turbine is expected to generate approximately 65% of the winery's electrical needs. Wind Powering America interviewed Tom Schaad, August Cellars facility manager, in August 2011 to learn more about this project.
Did you investigate any other renewable energy sources to offset your energy costs? Why did you choose wind over other energy sources?
As a business, we are always looking for ways to control costs. Alternate energy sources that we can own will offset the continual increase in electrical rates. We chose wind because the company that approached us offered a lease-to-own option, which reduced our out-of-pocket costs.
How did you choose the turbine type and size?
We selected the Entegrity EW50 turbine to match the wind resource at our site, according to Portland General Electric and Energy Trust of Oregon.
Can you describe any permitting process and zoning restrictions that you encountered?
We are located outside Newberg, so we actually dealt with the county. We didn't have any problems with locating the turbine on the property. We actually had more restrictions due to our farming practices than any other activity.
Describe the agreement between August Cellars and the project developers. What lessons did you learn?
We chose the 20-year lease-to-own option. We were supposed to pay $3,500 per year with the intent that we purchase the turbine after year 7. The project developers were responsible for all installation costs and were supposed to maintain the turbine for the first 7 years. In terms of lessons learned, the developers were inexperienced at being general contractors, and their poor choices delayed the project for more than 1 year.
During the construction period, what obstacles did you encounter? What lessons would you pass on to others?
The developers did not understand the weather conditions of western Oregon. Their contractor destroyed the farm road and failed to improve it as originally discussed. They have not yet cleaned up the job site. The developers also failed to call for inspections of foundation piers, failed to correctly ground the tower, and failed to pass any inspection on the first attempt. It felt like our turbine was their first installation. Even though the turbine is operational, the communication from the tower to the developer is not functional, nor is the turbine secured per the contract.
Describe any other lessons learned during this process.
While any alternative energy company has to struggle like the rest of us in this economy, I think it would have been to our advantage if we had actually looked at the developer's books to see if the company had the capital to complete the project. We hung with the project, and I still hope it works out, but (people who wish to install a turbine should keep in mind that) a start-up small company might not be able to survive in this economy.
Prior to publishing this story, Wind Powering America repeatedly attempted to contact the project developers, but they did not respond to our requests. We contacted Tom Schaad for a project update, and he reported that the turbine is currently not operating at an optimal level due to mechanical issues. According to Schaad, the developers have not restored the site to preconstruction conditions and have not met the obligations of their contract. August Cellars is currently working with another operations and maintenance company, this one based in Colorado.
Although August Cellars experienced complications with this wind project, others can learn lessons from the project:
- The project will have a positive impact on the winery's energy usage.
- The permitting process was simple.
- The rent-to-own concept will allow August Cellars to potentially own a wind turbine with little upfront capital.
- Finding high-quality, experienced, and solvent developers is critical to any wind project.